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One hazard of European-wide government according to Gibbon

In Italy last year, I had dinner with a Danish diplomat who was convinced that the European Union was the only thing standing in the way of another war between the nations of Europe. The British historian Edward Gibbon had a different idea.

He suggested that the division of Europe into a number of independent states connected by religion and manners could produce the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind. In contrast, he wrote, when the empire of the Romans filled Europe, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, Europe became a safe and dreary prison.

The slave of imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome in the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of Danube, expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly.

It has always interested me that fans of the EU superstate can never see the benefits of loosely connected nations bound by trade and shared principles of freedom and justice. Instead they feel it necessary to tie them together with chains, some of them gilded, but chains, nevertheless.

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In Britain there were free men and women who refused to be part of the Empire.

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